Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Epilepsy: Is Miracle Implant The Future?

tidbits that tantalize




Imagine a device that monitors your brainwaves. Imagine it predicts you're about to have a seizure. Imagine it stops the seizure before it begins. Imagine...

If you could have imagined such a device 10 years ago your name may have been Robert Fischell. A physicist and prolific inventor, Fischell's revolutionary firsts include the implantable insulin pump and the rechargeable pacemaker. In a 2005 article in Fortune magazine, he had this to say about the typical path of his inventive genius: "Stage one - everyone says it's impossible. Stage two - they say the solution was obvious all along."

In 1997 Fischell pursued the "obvious" next step in epilepsy treatment and founded NeuroPace, the maker of the Responsive Neurostimulator (RNS). The RNS is a device implanted in a patient's skull that stops seizures by delivering small electrical charges to the brain through thin wires known as electrodes. What makes the RNS so special?

The name says it all - Responsive...

The RNS is the first device to respond - in real time. The RNS assesses the brain's activity, determines when pre-seizure brainwaves occur and delivers therapy to stop the impending seizure. It's remarkable technology, on the cutting edge of what scientists call "closed-loop stimulation," a treatment mechanism that relies on individualized feedback derived from implanted sensors.

Here's how it works:

The matchbook-size RNS (roughly 1.6 by 2.4 inches) is the "brains" of the operation - monitoring, assessing, and treating. Each implanted electrode contains four contact points used to deliver small electrical charges. Neurologists establish a baseline of "normal" brainwave patterns based on data collected by the RNS. When the brainwaves spike beyond the normal range, the RNS shows its stuff - within less than a second it analyzes the feedback, predicts a seizure is about to occur and sends a series of tiny electrical charges that disrupt the seizure and calm the brain - without the patient feeling even the slightest tingle.

This evolving technology is especially important for people whose epilepsy is resistant to medications or for whom surgery is too risky. It takes a page from the Dreamer's Handbook, refines it in the still of neurological wizardry, swirls in just a touch of medical mystery and holds forth the promise of a normal life. Normal... sounds like just what the doctor ordered

To learn more about the RNS, visit the NeuroPace Website. If you want to learn more about the Phase III clinical trial involving the RNS, visit


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